Western sanctions against Russia could cause the International Space Station to crash, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos warned on Saturday, calling for the punitive measures to be lifted.
According to Dmitry Rogozin, the sanctions, some of which predate Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, could disrupt the operation of Russian spacecraft servicing the ISS. As a result, the Russian segment of the station — which helps correct its orbit — could be affected, causing the 500-tonne structure to “fall down into the sea or onto land”, the Roscosmos chief wrote on Telegram.
“The Russian segment ensures that the station’s orbit is corrected (on average 11 times a year), including to avoid space debris”, said Rogozin, who regularly expresses his support for the Russian army in Ukraine on social networks.
Publishing a map of the locations where the ISS could possibly come down, he pointed out that it was unlikely to be in Russia. “But the populations of other countries, especially those led by the ‘dogs of war’, should think about the price of the sanctions against Roscosmos”, he continued, describing the countries who imposed sanctions as “crazy”.
Rogozin similarly raised the threat of the space station falling to earth last month while blasting Western sanctions on Twitter. On March 1, NASA said it was trying to find a solution to keep the ISS in orbit without Russia’s help. Crews and supplies are transported to the Russian segment by Soyuz spacecraft.
But Rogozin said the launcher used for take-off had been “under US sanctions since 2021 and under EU and Canadian sanctions since 2022”. Roscosmos said it had appealed to NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency, “demanding the lifting of illegal sanctions against our companies”. Space is one of the last remaining areas where the United States and Russia continue to cooperate.
At the beginning of March, Roscosmos announced its intention to prioritise the construction of military satellites as Russia finds itself increasingly isolated as a result of the war in Ukraine. Rogozin also announced that Moscow would no longer supply the engines for the US Atlas and Antares rockets. “Let them soar into space on their broomsticks,” he wrote.
On March 30, US astronaut, Mark Vande Hei, and two cosmonauts, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, are scheduled to return to Earth from the ISS on board a Soyuz spacecraft.